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HEAD TO head - ELLEN BURSTYN & DAME MAGGIE SMITH.

Two legends of the stage and screen, Ellen Burstyn and Dame Maggie Smith, star together in the Southern comedy, Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood, which is out on Friday. The film, which is based on the best-selling novel by Rebecca Wells, looks at the unhappy relationship between a mother and daughter, the wild antics of a group of friends old enough to know better and the constraints of growing up in the Deep South. But which of the two ladies deserves to be going home to Tara and which of them could simply not give a damn? Here we decide...

ELLEN BURSTYN

AGE: 69

THE OLDEN DAYS: Born in Detroit as Edna Rae Gillooly, Ellen dropped out of school when she was 14 and took a job as a waitress. She saved her money under her mattress for three years, then struggled on as a model, a nightclub dancer and a Vegas showgirl, before joining the Actors Studio in New York under the name of Ellen McRae. She changed her name three times and her husband twice before fame finally struck in 1971 with The Last Picture Show. 7/10 WRINKLY OR ROCKER? Ellen's most outrageous role was the mother with the child from hell - quite literally - in The Exorcist. But she has played many more sedate roles, such as in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore.

Her love life certainly falls into a category usually associated with rock chicks - she has married four times in total and Al Pacino and Harvey Keitel are good friends. 8/10 SOUTHERN BELLE OR GRANDE DAME? She feels most at home in New York City and is hardly Scarlett O'Hara material. 2/10THE VERDICT: 17/30 A wild girl who has calmed down.

DAME MAGGIE SMITH

AGE 67

THE OLDEN DAYS: Born as Margaret Natalie Smith Cross in Ilford, Essex, her grandmother told her mother Maggie couldn't go into acting ``with a face like that''. This did not deter her. She started out as a stage actress and was soon singing and dancing on Broadway. 6/10 WRINKLY OR ROCKER? Her early dance routines in New York may have been regarded as raunchy, but Maggie is known as a classy act. She won her first Oscar for her portrayal of a strict school mistress in The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie and her private life has also been sedate and proper. She first walked down the aisle in 1967 with actor Robert Stephens, with whom she had two sons. After their divorce in 1974, Maggie wed Beverly Cross, remaining happily married until his death four years ago. 4/10 SOUTHERN BELLE OR GRANDE DAME? There's no doubt about it, Dame Maggie is happiest on the British stage, appearing in 30 plays. In 1989 she received a DBE, the equivalent of a knighthood, for accomplishments in theatre and film.

10/10 THE VERDICT: 20/30 Aclassy lady with a distinguished career - and we loveher for it.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 27, 2002
Words:492
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